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In rural Ohio, stalking incidents remain underreported

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Wednesday, January 24, 2024   

January is Stalking Awareness Month and advocates said cases of unwanted or repeated surveillance or contact, often alongside intimidation and harassment often go underreported, especially in Ohio's rural counties.

Shelby Lieber, survivor coordinator for the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, said according to the state's incident-based reporting system, agencies reported more than 1,500 cases of stalking related to 8,000 sexual assault incidents last year. Lieber pointed out the complexities around stalking can make reporting incidents to law enforcement difficult.

"Our rural counties are not reporting; they're saying it's not happening here, which we know it is happening there," Lieber observed. "Either they're not getting reported on or there's not enough evidence, because stalking in the state of Ohio is really hard to prove."

Lieber noted the Stalking Prevention, Awareness and Resource Center provides an online documentation log to help individuals keep track of every reported incident, which is especially helpful to have as evidence in a courtroom or when speaking with a first responder.

She added always err on the side of caution and call 911 or the Ohio Sexual Violence Helpline at 844-OHIO-HELP if you or someone you know feels they are in danger.

Lieber explained many survivors of sexual assault experience stalking as a form of silencing, to try to coerce them into not moving forward with legal charges. She emphasized having a safety plan is a critical tool for dealing with stalking situations and can include providing a photo of the perpetrator to employers, and making schedules unpredictable.

"If you're driving home from work, instead of taking the interstate to a certain exit that's closer to your house, could you take the interstate to an exit farther away from your house?," Lieber suggested. "Changing up that typical routine."

According to the Stalking Prevention, Awareness and Resource Center, most stalkers use technology and the internet to monitor, contact and threaten victims. Digital abuse also includes location tracking, demanding passwords and hacking into accounts. All fifty states have statutes criminalizing tech-facilitated stalking.

Disclosure: Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault, Health Issues, Women's Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

References:  
Stalking data CDC 2024

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